Fewer Bird Strikes At Sky Harbor Airport

July 21, 2014

Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport has recorded fewer bird strikes with airplanes in the past four years. That’s because of drier weather and increased efforts to keep our feathered friends away from the airport.

The FAA has paid more attention to bird strikes since a U.S. Airways jet collided with a flock of geese and landed on New York’s Hudson River in 2009 with no lives lost. But Sky Harbor was working to prevent bird strikes even before the so-called “Miracle on the Hudson,” and there haven’t been any significant problems in Phoenix according to airport spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez.

"We haven’t ever had an accident or an injury as the result of a bird strike," Rodriguez said. "But since 2000 we have had eight strikes recorded that caused some sort of damage to aircraft, and that’s in 14 years.”

Sky Harbor’s wildlife consultant Steve Fairaizl works to prevent birds and other animals from colliding with airplanes. He said birds don’t actually have to hit a jet to officially count as a strike. It can happen when a bird is caught up and killed in the exhaust or tail wind of an aircraft. He said pelicans are the biggest challenge during summer in Arizona.

"Pelicans will blow in with the monsoon storms from as far away as Rocky Point and San Diego," Fairaizl said. "They will come up and spend some time at Tempe Town Lake and some of the other parks around here.  And they are quite a large bird and if they were to get over to the airport they can be quite a hazard.”

He said pigeons and doves are most common at Sky Harbor. An FAA database showed there have been 22 bird strikes at airports across Arizona so far this year, and 16 of those were at Sky Harbor.